Souls of Mischief - Montezuma's Revenge

Souls of Mischief, the subset of Hieroglyphics consisting of Opio, Tajai, A Plus, and Phesto, haven’t released an album since 2000. For this one, they enlisted the help of Prince Paul on production duties. His work on this album is great; the beats sound great coming through my speakers. However, just three songs into the album, I can’t believe how bad the lyrics are. “Won!” features sexist and homophobic lyrics, talking about “pantyhose critics,” and other lines I’m not comfortable repeating.

Crown City Rockers - The Day After Forever

Crown City Rockers are a bit of a hidden gem from the Bay Area as a group with live instrumentation. You might not be familiar with them because it has taken them four years to follow up their last album. You might be familiar with member Headnotic and his work with The Mighty Underdogs, but otherwise they’ve probably been overlooked if you’re not from the region. With their style, I don’t see them knocking anyone out with this album, but I do see it creeping into a lot of people’s rotations.

Company Flow - Funcrusher Plus

As Definitive Jux finally re-releases Funcrusher Plus, I can’t help but think it’s a weird thing to revisit albums like this. An album that is historically regarded as a turning point in underground hip hop, it’s tough to listen to this album objectively. It’s easy to look at this album and say, “This is the album that gave us El-P, Mr. Len and Bigg Juss and El-P’s falling out with Rawkus gave us Def Jux.

Prof & St. Paul Slim - Recession Music

I had not heard of Prof & St. Paul Slim before, but when I see an album called Recession Music being sold for $5, and know that they are part of a very strong Minnesota scene, my interest was piqued. Unfortunately, the album does not live up to its potential. The production on the album is good, but lyrically the album really falls short. Instead of being a smart political album released at a crucial point in U.

Odd Nosdam - T.I.M.E. Soundtrack

This is a reissue of an album that was originally released in 2007, and am I glad that the good folks at anticon did, because I totally missed it the first time through, and that just ain’t right. This album was created as the soundtrack to This is My Element, a skateboarding film put out by Element Skateboards. The film isn’t especially noteworthy, unless you’re really into skateboarding. And quite frankly, I think the soundtrack holds up better as an album without the film to weigh it down, which feels a little bit of an odd thing to say, but sometimes that happens.

BK-One - Radio Do Canibal

DJ-produced albums can be tricky. There’s a difference between a coherent studio release of original material and a mixtape. BK-One, Brother Ali’s deejay for years, surely knows this. How else could he have made such a brilliant, carefully-crafted album built off of Brazilian music samples? If you’ve seen Ali in concert, you know that BK-One is a great live deejay. However, most of us probably didn’t know he was capable of something like this.

Abstract Rude - Rejuvination

Abstract Rude, veteran of the L.A. scene and member of such groups as Abstract Tribe, The A-Team, and Haiku D’etat, come at us with his first solo album in about five years, and his first for Rhymesayers. The album features production by Vitamin D, whose slow, laid back grooves seem like a good fit for the low smooth delivery of Ab’s voice. My complaint about this album would be that there lacks any sort of home run tracks.

Aceyalone - Aceyalone & The Lonely Ones

This album is the second in a series of albums that Aceyalone decided to do as experiments in crossing other genres with hip hop, which started with 2007’s Lighting Strikes, his foray into reggae. While reggae is not the oddest direction to take hip hop (the family tree doesn’t split that far back), I had to pause when I heard that this album with be Acey’s experiment with doo-wop. This isn’t as quite a natural fit, and it takes a little bit of finagling to make it work.

Anti-Pop Consortium - Flourescent Black

If there was any doubt that Anti-Pop wasn’t going to hit hard on their long-awaited reunion album, they don’t waste any time answering your questions. The opening track, “Lay Me Down,” opens up with some turn-up-the-volume metal guitar shredding, only to drop out and have some sinister slow drums start pulsing as M. Sayyid begins to lay it down. It’s been six years since they last released an album together, and they’ve released albums as solo artists and side projects, but nothing came close to what they create when all four members are playing off and challenging each other.

Big Quarters - From the Homes of Brown Babies and White Mothers

Big Quarters consist of brothers Brandon and Zach Bagaason, an up-and-coming duo from Minneapolis who shouldn’t be unknown for much longer. For one, they are very much committed to connecting to their fans, passing out free CDs at shows, and providing affordable download subscription services for their music. First and foremost, though, is the music, and BQ certainly brings it on their new album. They bring such a great marriage of inventive, varied production mixed with smart, thoughtful lyrics, this is album is definitely in the running for best surprise of the year.